There has been a LOT said about this movie recently. First, the media went into a frenzy saying that viewers would take inspiration and start massacring people in the streets. Then, when the first reviews and premiers and the Intertops Poker bonus came out, the same media simply said it wasn’t good.

So, of course, if this movie was hated by the critics, then I was utterly unsurprised when everyone else said that it was awesome. So what should you believe – is the movie a horrid bloodbath of incel rage, or a deep take on the state of society following a mentally broken protagonist?

Unexpected

First and foremost, I recommend you go see Joker. Joaquin Phoenix does a fantastic job acting this version of the Joker, named Arthur Fleck, and it’s undeniable how much he deserved his Oscar.

There a few stipulations, however. This movie is dark. This movie is depressing. Joker is not your typical modern superhero film AKA Joker is not a Marvel blockbuster. When I say this movie is dark and depressing, I don’t mean it’s like Batman V Superman, about two grim growly men in superhero costumes being angsty in the rain.

Joker has a legitimately dark tone to it that significantly differs from his typical comic book adaptations. Joker is not sexy or violent in ways that other “dark” films try to be. Arthur Fleck is not funny. Heck, he’s not even that much of a supervillain. He is a man who snaps afterlife takes him down a dark, dark path. Arthur doesn’t have just one bad day. As he puts it, Arthur Fleck has never had a good day.

Incel Rage?

One of the many accusations media has thrown at this movie is a dog whistle for Incels. That’s simply not true, and I find The Guardian’s take on it both amusing and disgusting, “To what extent will misogynistic creeps ‘feel seen’ in this film? Well, for most of it’s run time, it isn’t quite the alt-right manifesto some of the pre-release discourse suggested.

“It’s really just a drama about a mentally ill man with no friends who is targeted by bullies, lives with his mother, is ignored by the attractive woman down the hall and only finds purpose in mass murder.

“Wait, I know that sounds like it is sympathy for the incel, but Fleck’s anger, for most of the movie, stays rooted in his own circumstances.”

This take is so far off track, it’s shocking. First of all, it’s first rooted in a bias that this movie was supposed to be “alt-right” from the get-go. Secondly, The Guardian completely misunderstands what an “incel” is supposed to be, and seems to think that they’re beyond sympathy.

If you don’t know, Incel is short for “Involuntary Celibate.” It’s basically a self-identifying label for men who think that they have no chance with women for reasons beyond their control. Maybe they weren’t born tall enough, their personalities are lacking, and they’re ugly- whether it’s true or not, this is how these online men perceive themselves. They’re lonely, they feel unaccomplished and lacking, and they feel powerless to change their status in life.

Why are Incels portrayed as if they’re on the path to murdering people?

I don’t know.

Why were incels associated with this movie?

I don’t know.

Should any of it matter to you? No. Whether or not you think Incels are worth your sympathy or not, that is not what this movie is about.

Conclusion

Joker is a very different experience compared to any other superhero film I’ve seen ever. There are no superheroes. It’s possible to argue that there isn’t even a supervillain. There’s just good people and bad people.

Joaquin Phoenix is brilliant on screen. Watching him play Arthur Fleck is more unsettling and unnerving than any other interpretation of the Joker I’ve seen. He never licks anyone or doodles over his face, and he doesn’t even have the famous “smile scars.” He’s a man on the edge, with problems, and it’s just uncomfortable to watch certain scenes, which may be the exact point the film is trying to make. Arthur Fleck is almost ostracized from society by being different- really, actually different, and not fake-Hollywood-eccentricity different.

I highly recommend the film. As I said, it’s not for everyone, but you may be surprised at its depth and horror for a movie that wasn’t supposed to be either deep or horrific.

8.5 / 10

This is a new, different, and far darker take on the Joker than I have ever seen, and everything the mainstream media said about it can be safely thrown out the window. As usual.